(Reuters) – Sports events worldwide may have been almost brought to a standstill by the coronavirus pandemic but Drew McIntyre has put professional wrestling in the spotlight in Britain after he was crowned World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) world champion.
WWE aired its annual showpiece event this month, albeit without spectators in attendance, and 34-year-old McIntyre became Scotland’s first WWE champion after beating fellow wrestler and mixed martial artist Brock Lesnar.
McIntyre’s odds of winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award have since been slashed to 40-1, down from 100-1 according to William Hill.
England cricketer Ben Stokes won last year’s vote after his World Cup-winning and Ashes heroics, but with little sport to choose from so far this year due to the pandemic, McIntyre has staked an early claim.
Professional wrestling has its critics, with its scripted storylines and wrestlers seen as nothing more than stuntmen and actors engaged in physical battles and verbal jousting, but the risks they take in the ring are very much real.
“I hope from this, people in the UK will see that one of their own has made a success of WWE and that will give them an inkling to try watching it for themselves,” McIntyre told The Times.
“You can think what you like about wrestling, but my story shows that you can do anything if you try hard enough.”
British boxer Tyson Fury will be among the favourites following his victory over Deontay Wilder in February while unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will also in contention for the award to be decided in December.
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond